WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration said on Sunday it remained open to talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal despite Tehran rejecting an EU invitation to join a meeting with the United States and the other original participants in the agreement.
A senior administration official said the United States was “disappointed” with the rejection, but was flexible about the timing and format of the talks and saw Iran’s decision to snub the European invitation to the framework. of the diplomatic process. The official said the United States would consult with other participants – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union – on the way forward.
The official was not allowed to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Earlier on Sunday, Iran turned down the offer of talks, saying “now is not the time” for the meeting, in which the United States is said to have participated as an observer. Iran had insisted that the United States lift or relax the sanctions imposed on it by the Trump administration as part of its “maximum pressure campaign” before sitting down with the United States.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that the United States will reverse the deal that his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 only after Iran restored full compliance with the deal.
“Given the positions and actions of the United States / E3, the time has not come for the proposed informal meeting,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter. He brought up the so-called E3, which includes Britain, France and Germany.
“Remember: Trump failed to get together because of his ‘misguided’ maximum failure,” he said.
The Biden administration announced earlier this month that it would accept an invitation from the EU to attend a meeting of participants in the agreement and at the same time overturned a decision by Trump from the Security Council of the UN that Iran was significantly violating the agreement that all UN sanctions had to be restored.
The UN decision had little practical effect as nearly all members of the world body had rejected Trump’s determination because the United States was no longer participating in the nuclear deal. Officials in the Biden administration said the withdrawal of the determination was aimed at showing goodwill towards its partners and at the same time relaxed severe restrictions on the movement of Iranian diplomats assigned to the UN.
Separately, on Sunday, the State Department condemned a weekend attack by Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels on Saudi Arabia, saying it had hurt prospects for peace. Along with overtures to Iran on the nuclear front, the Biden administration has also overturned several decisions from the end of the Trump administration against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken rescinded his predecessor’s designation that the Houthi rebels were a “foreign terrorist organization,” a move that the UN and relief groups say would further exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen . In addition, the Biden administration has decided to end all offensive assistance to Saudi Arabia for its military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen.
The Houthis, however, have stepped up their operations in the country, continuing an offensive in Marib province and launching attacks against Saudi Arabia.
Saudi authorities on Saturday said they had intercepted a missile attack over their capital and reported that bomb-laden drones had targeted a southern province, the latest in a series of airstrikes they blamed on Houthis.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Sunday that the United States “strongly condemns the Houthi attacks on population centers in Saudi Arabia.” He said they “threatened not only innocent civilians but also prospects for peace and stability in Yemen” and called on the Houthis “to end these blatant attacks”.
“The United States remains committed to its long-standing partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory against attacks from groups aligned with Iran,” Price said.
The Biden administration further tightened ties with the Saudis on Friday when it released a declassified intelligence report concluding that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia had ordered an operation to capture or kill Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter and US resident who was brutally killed in Saudi Arabia. consulate in Turkey. Saudi Arabia strongly rejected the report’s findings.
Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.